Jess Graham is a field ecologist from Newcastle, New South Wales. She was the first employee to take part in a new RPS Global Ecology Mobility Program during the UK spring-summer seasons. This is her story.
I’m the lucky one who was chosen to be part of a new exchange program with RPS’ ecology team in the United Kingdom.
The purpose of the program is to give consultants like me the opportunity to experience RPS as a global company and to collaborate and network with offices worldwide. It allows ecologists across the world to gain and share experiences, knowledge, and ideas from one another’s teams.
I was given the opportunity to complete an array of fauna surveys – looking at key animal species. A large portion of our ecology work in the Newcastle office (Australia) is flora-based, and because I have a background in zoology I was really excited by this opportunity.
The surveys included bats, badgers, great crested newts, reptiles, otters, and door mice. As expected, the survey techniques were quite different from the ones we use back home.
For example, bat surveys required stringent and attentive techniques, as they only have microbats in the UK (some as tiny as 4cm long!) - unlike bat sizes here in Australia, which range from microbats to large flying foxes. As a result, my bat survey and data interpretation skills have grown immensely, and I am looking forward to incorporating into our bat surveys at home.
The Oxford team taught me how to use mapping programs for surveys such as breeding bird assessments - another skill I look forward to applying to bird surveys in Australia.
I also discovered that while specific survey requirements and methods change depending on your location across the world, they are all built on the same general principals and goals. To efficiently and sustainably assess the suitability of an area for native species to occur and thrive.
The program gave me an opportunity to gain experience in renewable energy projects including solar and on and offshore wind farms. Forty percent of the UK’s energy and 28% of Australia’s comes from renewable resources, with these numbers growing. As a result, there is a rising demand for ecologists in this sector worldwide. This experience was extremely valuable both personally and for my career.
The flexibility of the program meant that I had plenty of free time to explore the UK. On my weekends I visited Dublin, London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Inverness, and lots in-between. I spent my spare time exploring new cities, climbing mountains and watching local musical talent.
The program has inspired me to encourage more frequent meetings and collaboration across RPS offices worldwide. I hope to advocate for not only the continuation of the ecology exchange program but for the creation of other exchange programs across RPS offices.
I worked with teams from five different RPS locations throughout the program and networked with individuals from all levels of the organisation. I found that RPS teams globally are supportive, inclusive, and dynamic. This exchange program showcases our culture and how we collaborate globally.
My six-week exchange was an incredible experience. It allowed me to grow personally and professionally, network with like-minded professionals worldwide, establish friendships and gain experience in different fauna surveys and projects that are particularly significant for me. It showed me that RPS recognises the potential of individuals and supports career development, even for junior staff early in their careers like me. This program has absolutely been the highlight of my career so far.
In the field with RPS colleague, Ben, collecting water samples for Great Crested Newt eDNA analysis
On a dawn bird walking transect survey (4.30am start) with the sun rising over Westward Ho! in Devon
On boat cruise on Loch Ness - but no luck finding Nessie!
Jess' pic of Castle Sinclair Girnigoe
A full pack as she moves around the UK!
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